8 October 2004, Volume
ELECTION ISSUES DOMINATE IRAQI MEDIA THIS WEEK.
The Iraqi media covered a number of issues related to the upcoming national elections over the past week. Baghdad's "Al-Jaridah" cited Election Commission head Husayn al-Hindawi as saying that the commission is now preparing voter lists, and he expects some 13 million Iraqis to be eligible to vote. The lists are comprised from Iraqi ration cards; al-Hindawi said that those voters who do not have ration cards would still be eligible to vote if they could produce two documents confirming their citizenship from either citizenship certificates, civil status identity cards, passports, or military service documents. Al-Hindawi said that expatriates and Iraqi emigrants would be allowed to vote if they could produce documents confirming that at least one parent is an Iraqi citizen.
Regarding candidates, al-Hindawi said that parties or coalitions wishing to participate in elections would be required to deposit 7.5 million dinars ($5,277), while independent candidates must deposit 2.5 million dinars ($1,759) with the election commission. If the candidates won half of the number of votes required to secure a seat, they would be refunded their deposit, "Al-Jaridah" reported. Al-Hindawi also said that the Election Commission would determine in advance the amount of promotional space allotted to the candidates through audio, visual, and print media. Some 6,000 to 7,000 polling stations will be open on election day, with 40,000 ballot boxes being prepared, he added.
The Shi'ite News Agency (http://www.ebaa.net) cited al-Hindawi as saying on 29 September that the ration card system would be free from fraud. He said that citizenship would be verified through ration card records kept at the Trade Ministry. "These records are kept secret, they have not been forged, and no one can obtain them except the commission," he said. Meanwhile, commission spokesman Farid Ayyar denied reports that the election law allows the commission to provide financial support to the candidates in the election. Ayyar called the reports unfounded, the Iraq for All News Network reported (http://www.iraq4allnews.dk) on 28 September.
The website claimed on 27 September that Iraqis in southern and central Iraq have been helping Iranians obtain identification cards in order to vote in the elections. The website said that the Iranians have obtained civil status identity cards and citizenship certificates from government offices in central and southern Iraq. The report also claims that thousands of Kurds from Turkey and Iran are doing the same in the north with the help of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan with the goal of marginalizing Arab and Turkoman residents in northern Iraq. The website further claims that the former Iranian-supported Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Al-Da'wah Party, the Iraqi National Congress, and supporters of Abd al-Karim al-Mahmadawi are all involved in the scheme. "The aim is to gradually Persianize the regions of southern Iraq in order to ensure their allegiance to the Iranian regime," the website contends.
Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" reported on 30 September that some Iraqi political groups have expressed "anxiety" after learning that Iran is funding the prominent Shi'a political parties. The report claims that Iran has given tens of millions of dollars and "other resources" to parties including SCIRI and Al-Da'wah. The daily also reported that "tens of thousands" of Iranians are getting Iraqi identification cards with the help of the Shi'ite parties in order to vote in the election.
Election Commission spokesman Ayyar told "Al-Da'wah" in an interview published on 22 September that Iraqis living abroad may not be allowed to participate in the election. "There are a number of commission members who are currently working on studying this matter, but nothing has been decided so far. However, it is highly possible that Iraqis living abroad will not be allowed to take part in the elections, particularly since the process could prove to be very difficult," he said. Ayyar added that it would be difficult to facilitate voting for Iraqis in even one foreign country, let alone throughout the diaspora.
Iraqi print media also dedicated much of their reporting on the upcoming elections speculating whether or not the elections would even take place. Newspapers cited a number of officials and party leaders as confirming that elections would indeed be held, despite the volatile security environment. National Assembly Speaker Fu'ad Ma'sum was quoted by Baghdad's "Al-Mashriq" on 28 September as saying that the security situation permitted the holding of elections. "Seventy-five percent of the Iraqis are ready for them. It is impermissible to deprive 75 percent of the people of their right to vote for the sake of the remaining 25 percent," he said. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih was cited by "Al-Mashriq" on 2 October as saying that the interim government remained committed to holding elections on schedule. Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari also confirmed that elections would be held on schedule, saying most Iraqi provinces are safe, "Al-Mada" reported on 4 October.
The Election Commission launched a media campaign in late September on Iraqi and Arab television channels to explain the importance of elections to the public. The campaign features 45-second public service messages depicting Iraqis from all age groups discussing the importance of elections. "Tariq al-Sha'b" reported on 25 September that the messages are being broadcast on 12 television channels. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ'S MAJOR POLITICAL GROUPS TO FORM LIST FOR ELECTIONS.
Iraq's six leading opposition-turned-political parties are reportedly working to compile a joint list of candidates to stand in the January 2005 elections, Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" reported on 5 October. The move is seen as a calculated step by the groups to retain a hold on power. The groups dominated the Iraqi Governing Council and were subsequently guaranteed seats on the interim National Assembly and interim cabinet. The groups are: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi National Accord, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Two other groups will also participate in the list: the Communist Party and the Iraqi Islamic Party, "Al-Zaman" reported. Opposition groups have said that the current political structure has made it nearly impossible for them to compete in the political arena, the daily reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SOURCES SAY GRAND AYATOLLAH HOLDING MEETINGS WITH POLITICAL PARTIES ON ELECTIONS.
Sources in Al-Najaf told Baghdad's "Al-Furat" that Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has been holding meetings with political parties and figures in the holy city of Al-Najaf in order to formulate a united front for the elections, the daily reported on 5 October.
The source said that al-Sistani wants the parties to reach some kind of consensus that will "give them more force in the political arena." The daily reported that the ayatollah has met with representatives of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has told him to decide who will represent his movement in the elections. Al-Sistani reportedly said that he would give his support to the chosen candidate.
The ayatollah has also reportedly held meetings with Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad in order to adopt a common viewpoint, "Al-Furat" reported. A number of Iraqi media outlets reported similar details on the alleged meetings. Al-Sistani has stayed out of the political arena up to this point, but has been vocal in his call for elections and a withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq. Political parties will be required to form lists for the January 2005 elections. Individuals without party sponsorship can also run as independents on the lists. Voters will then cast their ballots vote for the lists, rather than for individual candidates. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TALKS UNDER WAY BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND AL-SADR CITY REPRESENTATIVES.
The interim government reportedly entered into talks with representatives from Baghdad's Al-Sadr City neighborhood in an effort to bring an end to the fighting between Shi'ite militants loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S.-backed Iraqi national forces, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 5 October.
Leaders from Al-Sadr City apparently put forth an initiative that is similar in nature to the Al-Najaf settlement brokered by Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2004). It calls for the fighters to hand over their weapons within an allotted time frame. The Iraqi police will then assume the responsibility for security in the city. The National Guard will have the right to patrol the area accompanied by multinational forces, but the government must commit to not hunting down members of the al-Sadr militia.
The initiative was reportedly submitted to the government in the name of a delegation of Al-Sadr City's tribal leaders, as well as an unnamed representative from al-Sadr's Baghdad office. Al-Sadr spokesman Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji confirmed to Al-Jazeera on 6 October that talks were ongoing, but accused the interim government of not keeping its word after it promised a cease-fire would begin on 5 October. U.S. warplanes subsequently bombed Al-Sadr City on 5-6 October. Al-Darraji said that al-Sadr representatives were awaiting the return of negotiators to the neighborhood, adding, "Shaykh Ali Sumaysim, the political representative [of al-Sadr], commented on some points and said there are points on which agreement can be reached and others on which no agreement can be reached."
Al-Sadr representatives contended that they would not accept the searching of houses in Al-Sadr City. "We are afraid to sign an agreement that can be violated after a few days just as happened in the holy city of Al-Najaf. You know that the religious authority launched an initiative but the occupation forces and the National Guard did not abide by it. They raided the Martyr Al-Sadr office and houses and arrested Shaykh Ahmad al-Shaybani...and many supporters of the al-Sadr current.... We want binding pledges and bonds," al-Darraji said.
An agreement was finally reached and the interim Iraqi government "welcomed" the al-Sadr initiative to disarm his militia on 8 October, Reuters reported. "The government welcomes the announcement by al-Sadr that his militia will disband, hand over their weapons, respect the authority and the unity of the state, and abide by the rule of law in Iraq," national security adviser Qassim Dawud said in a statement.
Asked in a 7 October interview with Al-Arabiyah television whether he thought al-Sadr would keep his word, Dawud said: "We must not look at the dark side.... Let us hope that political and social atmospheres would be created to contribute to pushing the new Iraqi march forward." Al-Sadr has flip-flopped on previous commitments in the past.
Al-Sadr aide Sumaysim announced the al-Sadr initiative on Al-Arabiyah television on 7 October, saying militiamen would hand over medium-caliber and heavy weapons and cooperate with police and the Iraqi army to establish security and the rule of law in Iraq. U.S. forces released al-Sadr aide Mu'ayyad al-Khazraji on 7 October as part of the negotiated agreement. The interim government has vowed to compensate victims of the ongoing fighting between militiamen and U.S.-backed Iraqi national forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)DEFENSE MINISTRY INVITES FORMER OFFICERS TO JOIN IRAQI ARMY.
The interim Defense Ministry has issued a call for former officers with the rank of major and below to join the new Iraqi Army, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 5 October. The call is reportedly only addressed to the divisions of electrical and mechanical engineering, supplies, and transportation.
A source at the ministry said that a joint committee comprised of Defense and Interior ministry officials will review the applications and history of prospective returnees before they are rehired, the television reported.
Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" reported on 3 October that participants at a recent Baghdad meeting organized by former Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi's Independent Democrats Grouping determined that the "main and last hope" for returning stability to Iraq lay in rehiring former army personnel. Former General Salem Hussein al-Ali was quoted as saying: "No government, whether interim or permanent, will be capable of administering the country if the former army is not restored." Mahmud Abd al-Qadir, another former general, criticized the current selection process for army members, saying it is based along ethnic and sectarian lines. Meanwhile, former Lieutenant General Suhail Abd al-Qadir proposed the return of former border guard battalions to help secure Iraq's borders. He claimed that if given the opportunity, former border officers could breathe life into their units in one month, "Al-Zaman" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS FOREIGN FIGHTERS ARRESTED IN SAMARRA.
Hazim al-Sha'lan al-Khuza'i said on 4 October that 105 foreign fighters were arrested in Samarra and turned over to multinational forces for interrogation, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day. Among the foreigners were 18 Egyptians, 18 Sudanese, and one Tunisian, the minister said. Al-Sha'lan added that the fighters would be returned to Iraqi custody once their interrogations are complete. In a separate interview with Al-Arabiyah, al-Sha'lan said that the Samarra operation "has been completed with minimum losses." He added that there were well over 200 foreign fighters in the city. "Believe me that we could have killed many of them but we let them leave the city. We seek to liberate our people in Samarra.... Had we wanted to kill them, we could have killed hundreds more, but we let them run away to other areas. We will confront them if they do not return to their senses," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)INDONESIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED IN IRAQ.
The Islamic Army in Iraq released two female Indonesian hostages on 4 October, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day. The group said in a statement that it released the women at the request of the spiritual head of Jama'ah Islamiyah, Abu Bakir Bashir in Indonesia. Bashir is serving a four-year prison term on charges of forgery and treason. The hostages were delivered to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) along with a letter addressed to the Indonesian embassy. Since Indonesia does not have an embassy in Baghdad, the letter was readdressed to the U.A.E. embassy, an unidentified embassy official told Abu Dhabi television on 4 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)GROUP CLAIMS IT HAS EXECUTED IRAQI, TURKISH HOSTAGES.
The Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Salafist Brigades reportedly released a videotaped statement dated 2 October claiming to have executed an Iraqi and Turkish national, Al-Jazeera television reported on 4 October. The group claimed in the statement that the Turkish national was employed by the Turkish intelligence service, while the Iraqi, identified as Anwar Iyad Wali, was working for Israeli intelligence.
The group further claimed that Wali was attempting to sell red mercury from Iraq to unidentified foreign parties. Wali was kidnapped from his Baghdad office several weeks ago. He had been living in Italy for some 20 years, but did not hold an Italian passport, according to Al-Jazeera.
Meanwhile, London's Sky News reported on 4 October that U.K. hostage Kenneth Bigley has been handed over to a second militant group in Iraq. Bigley's brother Paul said that he had received reports from Kuwait that the switch could pave the way for "a financial settlement" that would ensure his brother's release. On 8 October, news agencies reported that a video released by Islamist militants shows the beheading of Bigley. (Kathleen Ridolfo)POLICE FIND TWO DECAPITATED BODIES IN MOSUL.
Police discovered the bodies of two decapitated men in Mosul on 5 October, Reuters reported. The bodies, which were found in separate locations in the city center, were reportedly identified as Iraqi nationals. The news agency reported that there is no known motive for their murder. The body of a third man also believed to be an Iraqi national was discovered on 3 October near a bus station in Mosul, police and hospital officials told Reuters. Meanwhile, Khalid Abd al-Ghafur al-Dubrani, an Iraqi tribal leader form the Kurdish Juran tribe was assassinated in Mosul on 6 October, international media reported. Al-Dubrani served as an adviser to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He headed the Kurdish Al-Fursan (knights) Brigades, Al-Arabiyah reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)DAILY CONTENDS THAT IRANIAN INTELLIGENCE RUNNING AL-BASRAH.
The Baghdad daily "Al-Dustur" reported on 29 September that an extremist Islamic group run by the Iranian intelligence agency Itla'at has taken over the local governance of the city. The unattributed report cites locals as saying that millions of dollars have been paid to local tribal chiefs by Iran to gain their acquiescence. A police officer said that he receives orders from an officer in the Badr Brigades who does not speak proper Arabic, implying that it is not his first language. Badr is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- a former Iraqi opposition group that was based in Iran prior to the fall of the Hussein regime.
A number of individuals reportedly told the daily that it is their belief that the Iranians are operating with the knowledge of British forces, which are based in Al-Basrah. One local bank employee said that the Iranians are spreading a lot of money in and around the city. Two persons interviewed said that the Itla'at has ordered theaters, clubs, and other gatherings closed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY VISITS IRAQ.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was in Iraq this week for a two-day visit, international media reported. Straw met with Kurdish officials before traveling south to Baghdad, where he met with interim government officials, including members of the Election Commission, as well as the UN officials.
During a 6 October press conference broadcast on Al-Arabiyah television, Straw voiced support for Iraq in its fight against terrorism. "It is absolutely fundamental not just to Iraqis but to also send a message to the outside world -- to the terrorism in Ireland, Germany, and Italy -- that you are defeating terrorism wherever it may be, as it involves the most fundamental denial of human rights and it is profoundly anti-democratic," Straw said.
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told the same press conference that the meetings between Straw and Iraqi officials were "fruitful." "These talks centered on the latest developments in the Iraqi situation, especially the security situation, and the election issue.... We spoke about the determination to end the existence of terrorists in these areas. We consider that an essential condition for affording an opportunity to every Iraqi everywhere in Iraq to participate in the elections," Salih said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
EGYPT TO HOST IRAQ CONFERENCE.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghayt told Nile News television on 30 September that Egypt intends to host a meeting of Iraq's neighbors in November. The meeting is one in a series of meetings between Egypt, and the six neighboring states to Iraq, and is regularly attended by Arab League representatives.
Al-Ghayt said that the permanent member states of the UN Security Council, representatives from G-8 member states, and representatives from the Organization of the Islamic Conference would also attend the meeting. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari confirmed to Al-Arabiyah television a day earlier that the meeting would take place. He said that the meeting would address Iraqi security and support for the upcoming January elections.
Iraqi newspapers and television reports this week have expressed astonishment at an apparent call by France to allow what they term the Iraqi "resistance" to attend the Cairo meeting. It is unclear which French official made such a suggestion. According to a commentary written by Abd al-Hadi Mahdi and published in the KDP newspaper "Al-Ta'akhi" on 3 October, the French have said that the Iraqi interim government should allow those who are taking up arms against it to attend the conference. Mahdi notes that these groups "have not shown their identity openly nor [made known] their political programs." "Is it logical that these criminals should be invited to such a conference?" he asks. "Is France cajoling with those who kidnapped the French journalists after it had failed to secure their release, and what logic can accept extending an invitation to attend a conference to those who slaughtered 12 innocent Nepalese?" (Kathleen Ridolfo)TALKS UNDERWAY FOR IRAQI-JORDANIAN PIPELINE.
Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban said on 26 September that an Iraqi technical delegation would soon meet with their Jordanian counterparts to discuss the construction of an oil pipeline connecting the two states, "Al-Ra'y" reported on 27 September.
Al-Ghadhban told the daily that the discussions "are aimed at expediting the implementation of the project, which became stalled at a previous time due to the embargo and war." The pipeline will carry petroleum from the Hadithah (K-3) refinery to the Jordanian refinery at Al-Zarqa. He added that the pipeline would meet Jordan's long-term petroleum needs.
Asked to comment on the current trade in oil between the two states, the minister said: "The station that was supposed to be supplying Jordan with oil via oil tanks was bombed in the war. The storage facilities and pumps were lost, too, and the pipelines were put out of service. This is what is still hindering the resumption of exports to Jordan." Al-Ghadhban noted that the station was currently under reconstruction, but did not give a timetable for when the station would resume exports. He added that the Iraqi government does not, and would not export oil at preferential prices to any company or government. The former Iraqi regime exported oil to Jordan at vastly subsidized prices. (Kathleen Ridolfo)MANDATE ENDS FOR TURKISH CEASE-FIRE MONITORING FORCE.
The mandate of the Turkish cease-fire monitoring force present in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1997 ended this week, Istanbul's NTV reported on 3 October. The force was deployed to Irbil to "monitor" the situation following clashes between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) forces in 1997. Kurdish leaders have called on Turkey to withdraw the force for several months. A ceremony reportedly marked the end of the mandate and was attended by KDP, PUK, U.S., and U.K. military officials, as well as other local dignitaries.
KDP official Nechirvan Barzani told Irbil's "Khabat" daily on 2 October that the Turkish force "played a good role" in Kurdistan. "Their role in maintaining peace at that time was effective. Therefore, we thank them for their productive role at that time. And now they are returning home in accordance with another accord, we voice our gratitude to them," he said. Some 2,500 South Korean troops have arrived in Irbil in recent days to begin a peacekeeping mission there as part of the multinational force in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI MINISTER SAYS SOME 3,000 MKO MEMBERS IN PRISON.
Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin said on 29 September that 3,322 of the 9,877 inmates held in Iraqi prisons are members of the banned Mujahidin e-Khalq (MKO) anti-Iranian terrorist organization, IRNA reported on 30 September. The Iranian opposition group, which is considered a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, was supported by the Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)LIBYAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR RELEASE OF BRITISH HOSTAGE.
Libyan President Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi appealed for the release of British hostage Kenneth Bigley in Iraq, Libya's JANA news agency reported on 6 October. Militants have been holding Bigley for some three weeks. "We ask that they free this poor Briton since his family asked for our help. They should let us know by any means possible if they have any conditions," al-Qadhafi said. Bigley's family sought the Libyan leader's help this week.
Al-Qadhafi criticized the Iraqi "resistance" for being weak from an organizational standpoint, but said it is the "legitimate right" to fight the occupation, adding: "The U.S. president himself said 'If I were an Iraqi and foreign troops entered my country I would fight them.' These were his exact words." Al-Qadhafi also asserted that the Iraqi "resistance" should not hide behind slogans or names such as "Muhammad's Army," "Al-Mahdi's Army" and so forth, but rather should unite. "All resistance movements in history have a leadership and a title, and negotiations are held with them eventually," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IAEA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER DISMANTLEMENT OF FORMER IRAQI NUCLEAR SITES.
Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sent a letter to the current UN Security Council President Sir Emyr Jones Parry this week expressing concern about the whereabouts of equipment from dismantled sites that formerly housed the Iraqi nuclear program, as well as other sites monitored by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the IAEA. The letter, posted to the IAEA website ( http://www.iaea.org) on 4 October, contends that an ongoing review of satellite imagery and follow up investigations has shown the "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program."
"The imagery shows in many instances the dismantlement of entire buildings that housed high precision equipment (such as flow forming, milling and turning machines; electron beam welders; coordinate measurement machines) formerly monitored and tagged with IAEA seals, as well as the removal of equipment and materials (such as high strength aluminum) from open storage areas," the letter noted.
More troubling is el-Baradei's statement that the IAEA "through visits to other countries, has been able to identify quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated, that had been transferred out of Iraq from sites monitored by the IAEA.... However, none of the high quality dual-use equipment or materials referred to above has been found." El-Baradei contended that some of the equipment and materials could aid in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Brigadier General Joseph J. McMenamin, commander of the Iraq Survey Group, told Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that the weapon sites remain largely unsecured by multinational forces. Kennedy asked: "Can you assure us that all these sites are tightly secured by U.S. forces and no weapons could fall into the hands of the insurgents?" McMenamin replied: "Sir, I can't assure you that that will happen. On the larger ones we have security forces, overhead imagery. There's an active program ongoing to destroy excess munitions around the country. On a regular basis we're destroying excess captured munitions to keep them out of the hands of the insurgency. As the Iraqi forces come on-line in their security efforts, they'll be able to take over and protect those assets to prevent them falling into the wrong hands."
Cairo's "Al-Sha'b" reported on 1 October that People's Assembly deputies have called on the Egyptian government to take steps to prevent the entry of military equipment and scrap metal through the Egyptian-Jordanian border. The metal, coming from Iraq, is reportedly radioactive and includes "the machines, equipment, and residue of buildings." The deputies called for coordination with the Jordanian authorities to thwart the smuggling of scrap metal. The deputies reportedly quoted Jordanian expert, Fu'ad al-Khalili, as saying that Iraqi scrap metal contained a high rate of uranium, the report said. Perhaps more worrying is the possibility that dual-use equipment might be obtained by Iran, which is currently seeking to develop a nuclear weapons program.
In his letter to the Security Council, the IAEA chief said that Annex 3 of the IAEA's Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) Plan calls for both Iraq as the exporting state and the purchasing state to notify the IAEA when materials subject to inspection are sold or transferred. Iraq is also under obligation to file semi-annual reports noting changes that have occurred at sites subject to inspection. "The agency has received no such notifications or declarations from any states since the agency's inspectors were withdrawn in March 2003," despite the fact that some of the missing materials were subject to reporting. El-Baradei did say that the U.S. and Iraqi governments had informed the agency about the transfer of 1.8 tons of uranium and other radioactive materials to the United States earlier this year.
El-Baradei said that the Iraqi interim government has requested IAEA assistance in the sale of remaining nuclear material housed at the Al-Tuwaythah complex near Baghdad, as well as help in the dismantlement and decontamination of former nuclear sites. The IAEA is currently considering the request. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON COUNTRIES TO CONTRIBUTE FORCES TO IRAQ.
The United Nations Security Council called on member states to contribute forces to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on 1 October, the UN News Center reported (http://www.un.org/news).
The council voiced support for a letter by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the council that outlined the need for an international security staff, protection coordination officers, personal security details, and guard units. All would serve in addition to forces provided by the U.S.-led multinational force. The contributing forces would be responsible for security at UN offices and the UN's Baghdad headquarters.
Twenty-two people were killed in the bombing of the Baghdad headquarters on 19 August 2003. An investigation into the bombing cited failures by UN security personnel to properly secure the premises. The bombing led to the subsequent withdrawal of international UN staff from Iraq. About 35 international staff have since returned, and are currently working within the multinational forces-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad.
Officials from a number of countries have said in recent weeks that they might contribute troops at the request of the United Nations, but it appears that few have yet to follow through. Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said that there was nothing to report regarding possible troop commitments, the website reported on 1 October. Eckhard alluded that there were reports that one country might provide assistance, but declined to give details until a final agreement has been reached.
Meanwhile, Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono said on 4 October that Spanish troops could return to Iraq at the request of the United Nations, the Madrid daily "ABC" reported on 5 October. "We came [back] from Iraq and we have fulfilled the mission. If the UN asked us to go [to Iraq] to cover the elections, as in Afghanistan, we would consider it and we would take it to parliament," Bono told a television news program. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said on numerous occasions that Spain will not return its troops to Iraq under any circumstances. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SURVEY FINDS ONE-QUARTER OF IRAQIS STILL DEPENDENT ON FOOD RATIONS.
A survey by the UN's World Food Program has found that some 6.5 million Iraqis -- about one-quarter of the population -- remain dependent on food rations, the UN agency said on 28 September (http://www.wfp.org).
The agency's Baseline Food Security Assessment survey found that of the 6.5 million Iraqis receiving assistance, some 2.6 million are so poor that they have to resell part of their rations to buy basic necessities such as clothes and medicine. The survey found that another 3.6 million Iraqis (14 percent of the population) would become "food insecure" if the ration system ended, the agency said.
The survey was conducted in the second half of last year in 15 southern and central Iraqi governorates, and in the northern governorate of Al-Sulaymaniyah. Some 28,500 households participated in the survey, which was carried out in cooperation with the Planning and Development Cooperation Ministry, and the Health Ministry. It determined that despite the presence of a state-run Public Distribution System (PDS), extreme poverty was prevalent in rural areas, particularly among women and children. Twenty-seven percent of all children under the age of five were found to be chronically malnourished. "Despite receiving food rations from Iraq's Public Distribution System, these people are still struggling to cope," WFP Country Director Torben Due said. "Although food is generally available, the poorest households cannot afford to buy from the markets."
WFP launched a $60 million, one-year emergency program in response to the survey to target the most vulnerable groups in Iraq. The program provides 67,000 metric tons of food to 220,000 malnourished children, more than 1.7 million primary school children, 350,000 pregnant and lactating mothers, and more than 6,000 tuberculosis patients, the agency said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN UNIONS ASK SECRETARY-GENERAL TO KEEP STAFF OUT OF IRAQ.
Two unions supporting some 60,000 United Nations employees sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 6 October asking him to keep UN staff out of Iraq due to security concerns, nytimes.com reported.
The letter also asked that Annan pull some 35 staff members currently based in Baghdad to help prepare for elections out of Iraq as soon as possible. "While [we] are cognizant of the extreme political pressures that you face regarding the role of the UN in Iraq, and while we understand that the people of Iraq deserve the support and assistance of the international community, we cannot condone the deployment of UN staff to Iraq in view of the unprecedented high level of risk to the safety and security of staff," the letter said.
Annan has asked UN member states on several occasions (see this report) to send troops to Iraq with the sole purpose of providing protection for UN staffers. No state has yet to volunteer troops, and UN staffers remain based within the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI GOVERNMENT REPORT IMPLICATES VOLOSHIN IN OIL DEALS.
The former Putin administration official who was accused of accepting illegal payments from the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a secret Iraqi interim-government report has been identified as former presidential-administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 October, citing a leaked copy of the report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). Voloshin, who was chief of staff under former President Boris Yeltsin as well as under President Vladimir Putin, stepped down in October 2003 following the arrest of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsii, and he is now board chairman of Unified Energy Systems (EES). The report charges that Voloshin received about $638,000 from allocations of 3.9 million barrels of Iraqi oil exported through the UN's oil-for-food program. Neither Voloshin nor Kremlin officials were available to comment on "The Moscow Times" report.
Several Russian political parties and 20 Russian oil companies also profited from Iraqi oil allocations under the Hussein regime, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 October, citing the interim Iraqi government's report. The Communist Party reportedly was allocated 142 million barrels of oil and made a profit of $16.4 million, while the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) allegedly was allocated 75.8 million barrels and earned $8.7 million. Emercom, a commercial arm of the Emergency Situations Ministry, received allocations of 73.5 million barrels, earning $7.6 million, according to the report. At the time, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu was the head of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party and its predecessor, Unity. Both the Communist Party and the LDPR have denied the allegations. Although earlier media reports have charged that the Russian Orthodox Church received oil allocations, the Iraqi government's report said the church received no allocations and made no profits from the oil-sales program. (Rob Coalson)RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ANNOUNCES IRAQ CONFERENCE.
The Russian Foreign Ministry's Ambassador at Large Sergei Kirpichenko told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that donor countries for Iraq will meet in Tokyo on 12-14 October, the news agency reported on the same day. The meeting will address ways in which foreign countries can contribute to the economic revitalization of Iraq, Kirpichenko said. He said that Russia is already cooperating with Iraq in the field of energy, and would like to cooperate in other fields once security is restored. (Kathleen Ridolfo)POLAND MAY BEGIN WITHDRAWING TROOPS IN JANUARY.
Poland is considering a plan to begin redeploying its forces from Iraq as early as January, AFP reported on 4 October. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski confirmed the existence of the plan in Paris following a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. The redeployment could begin soon after Iraqi national elections and last several months. Asked about a specific date for the pullout, Kwasniewski said, "That has not been decided."
Kwasniewski contended that the situation in Iraq will have changed as a result of the elections. "This is the reason why we have decided to speak with the Iraqis and our coalition partners and the United States about reducing Polish forces from 1 January onwards, and finishing our mission at the end of 2005," he said. The president told Polish Radio on 5 October that Poland would not withdraw in haste and would pursue its redeployment plan in a "responsible manner," taking into account Iraq's needs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)PRIME MINISTER ASKS UKRAINE NOT TO REDUCE TROOP SIZE.
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi asked Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in a letter not to reduce its troop numbers in Iraq, Interfax news agency reported on 5 October. "I count on your personal understanding of the momentous task my government is facing in restoring the country. I am asking you to maintain the current number of troops in Iraq throughout next year, or until the time when the multinational forces are in [a] position to pull out their troops," the letter said in part. The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council supported a Defense Ministry proposal last week that calls for the gradual reduction of Ukraine's peacekeeping contingent in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the two countries announced this week that they have drafted a defense cooperation agreement that calls for military-technical cooperation and military training and consultation. Under the agreement, which will reportedly be finalized on 8 October, Ukraine will train military specialists of the Iraqi armed forces at its colleges, and also provide training in the field, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CIA REPORT SAYS NO EVIDENCE LINKING TERRORIST TO HUSSEIN.
A new report by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has said that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave safe haven to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, international media reported on 5 October. Al-Zarqawi is linked to Al-Qaeda. U.S. officials argued before the war that Hussein had sheltered members of Al-Qaeda and therefore was linked to the global war on terror.
Reuters cited a U.S.-based ABC News report that quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that the CIA report raises "serious questions" about the administration's prewar assessments, adding that there is no direct evidence that Hussein knew that al-Zarqawi was even in Iraq. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on 5 October that al-Zarqawi "was in contact from Baghdad with Ansar Al-Islam in the northeastern part of Iraq. He had a cell operating from Baghdad during that period as well. So there are clearly ties between...Saddam Hussein's regime and Al-Qaeda."
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on 5 October: "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links" Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. Just hours later, the Pentagon released a statement by Rumsfeld claiming that his comments at CFR were misunderstood. "I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between Al-Qaeda and Iraq," he said in the statement. "Today at the council, I even noted that 'when I'm in Washington, I pull out a piece of paper and say "I don't know, because I'm not in that [intelligence] business, but I'll tell you what the CIA thinks" and I read it.'" The statement went on to list Rumsfeld's arguments for suggesting links between Al-Qaeda and the Hussein regime, including "credible evidence" that Al-Qaeda sought contacts in Iraq that could help them obtain weapons of mass destruction, Reuters reported on 5 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ SURVEY GROUP SAYS NO WEAPONS FOUND.
Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group searching for evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq, told two Congressional committees in Washington, D.C. on 6 October that the group has not uncovered evidence that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S.-led invasion last year, international media reported.
The investigation determined, however, that Hussein "aspired to develop a nuclear capability" and planned to resume nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs if sanctions had been lifted. The investigation uncovered a worldwide network of companies and countries, some of them U.S. allies, that secretly helped Iraq generate $11 billion in illegal income, washingtonpost.com reported.
The network also helped Hussein locate, finance, and import banned technologies and services. The countries included Belarus, China, Lebanon, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Excerpts from the report can be found on the washingtonpost.com website.
Hussein and other high-ranking regime officials said in interviews with the Iraq Survey Group that the United States was never a target of Iraq's weapons program. Duelfer told members of Congress that Hussein's goal was to use weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against Iran, thereby elevating his status in the Middle East.
The investigation also determined that Iraq's nuclear program was not close to being months away from building a weapon, and that there was no evidence that Iraq possessed or was working on a mobile biological weapons production system. Nor was any evidence found to indicate Hussein attempted to buy uranium from Africa in the early 1990s, as the Bush administration, based on British intelligence, had claimed before the war. The investigation also did not uncover evidence of stocks of the smallpox virus.
The report also concluded that no chemical weapons existed and that there were no attempts to produce chemical weapons over the past 12 years. Iraq did possess dual-use equipment, however, and thus was capable of producing chemical weapons. The investigation did find designs for three long-range ballistic missiles with proscribed ranges up to 1,000 kilometers, but determined that none of the missiles had reached the production phase. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FORMER CPA HEAD SAYS TOO FEW TROOPS SENT TO IRAQ LAST YEAR.
The former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq L. Paul Bremer said on 4 October that an insufficient number of troops contributed to the coalition's inability to sustain order in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation, washingtonpost.com reported on 5 October.
Bremer contended that the United States also erred by not containing the subsequent violence and looting that took place after the regime fell. "We paid a big price for not stopping [the looting] because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Bremer also said that the U.S. plans for the postwar period erred in their projections of what might happen following the fall of the Hussein regime. Too much focus, he said, was placed on humanitarian aid and possible refugee problems rather than planning for a potential insurgency.
An unidentified Pentagon official denied on 4 October Bremer's claims that he had requested additional troops for Iraq, saying that Bremer only requested additional troops days before his June departure, washingtonpost.com reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)